The Passerellidae (New World sparrows or American sparrows) are a large family of seed-eating passerine birds with distinctively finch-like bills. The American Ornithological Society split the family from Emberizidae (Old World buntings) in 2017.[1][2]

White-crowned sparrow
Zonotrichia leucophrys
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Passerellidae
Jean Cabanis, 1851



  1. ^ American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds. 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ a b Chesser, R. Terry; Burns, Kevin J.; Cicero, Carla; Dunn, John L.; Kratter, Andrew W; Lovette, Irby J; Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Remsen, J.V. Jr; Rising, James D.; Stotz, Douglas F.; Winker, Kevin (2017). "Fifty-eighth supplement to the American Ornithological Society's Check-list of North American Birds". The Auk. 134 (3): 751–773. doi:10.1642/AUK-17-72.1.
American sparrow

American sparrows are a group of mainly New World passerine birds, forming part of the family Passerellidae. American sparrows are seed-eating birds with conical bills, brown or gray in color, and many species have distinctive head patterns.

Although they share the name sparrow, American sparrows are more closely related to Old World buntings than they are to the Old World sparrows (family Passeridae). American sparrows are also similar in both appearance and habit to finches, with which they sometimes used to be classified.

American tree sparrow

The American tree sparrow (Spizelloides arborea), also known as the winter sparrow, is a medium-sized sparrow.

It had been classified under the genus Spizella, but multilocus molecular evidence suggested placement in its own genus.

Adults have a rusty cap and grey underparts with a small dark spot on the breast. They have a rusty back with lighter stripes, brown wings with white bars and a slim tail. Their face is grey with a rusty line through the eye. Their flanks are splashed with light brown. They are similar in appearance to the chipping sparrow.

Their breeding habitat is tundra or the northern limits of the boreal forest in Alaska and northern Canada. They nest on the ground.

These birds migrate into southern Canada and the United States to spend the winter. Usually, chipping sparrows are moving south around the same time as these birds arrive.

These birds forage on the ground or in low bushes, often in flocks when not nesting. They mainly eat seeds and insects, but also eat some berries. They are commonly seen near feeders with dark-eyed juncos.

This bird's song is a sweet high warble descending in pitch and becoming buzzy near the finish.

Brewer's sparrow

Brewer's sparrow (Spizella breweri) is a small, slim species of American sparrow in the family Passerellidae. This bird was named after the ornithologist Thomas Mayo Brewer.

Canyon towhee

The canyon towhee (Melozone fusca) is a bird of the family Passerellidae.


Chlorospingus is a genus of perching birds, the bush tanagers, traditionally placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae). More recent studies which suggest they are closely related to the genus Arremonops in the Passerellidae (American sparrows). As of July, 2017, the American Ornithological Society assigns the genus to the new family Passerellidae, which contains the New World sparrows.It contains these species:

Ashy-throated bush tanager, C. canigularis

Yellow-throated bush tanager, C. flavigularis

Common bush tanager, C. flavopectus

Dusky-headed bush tanager, C. (flavopectus) postocularis

White-fronted bush tanager, C. (flavopectus) albifrons

Dwight's bush tanager, C. (flavopectus) dwighti

Wetmore's bush tanager, C. (flavopectus) wetmorei

Pirre bush tanager, C. inornatus

Yellow-whiskered bush tanager, C. parvirostris

Sooty-capped bush tanager, C. pileatus

Dusky bush tanager, C. semifuscus

Tacarcuna bush tanager, C. tacarcunaeThe taxonomy and systematics of the common bush tanager are under review; it appears to be a superspecies or even a complex of superspecies.


Emberizidae is a family of seed-eating passerine birds with distinctively finch-like bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. The New World genera formerly considered part of this family are now placed in their own family, Passerellidae. Some other New World genera have been reassigned to the tanager family, Thraupidae.

It was hypothesized that the family Emberizidae may have originated in South America and spread first into North America before crossing into eastern Asia and continuing to move west. However, a DNA sequence-based study of passerines concluded emberizids spread from North to South America. However, all the New World emberizids have been placed in other families.

As with several other passerine families, the taxonomic treatment of this family's members is currently in a state of flux. Many genera in South and Central America are, in fact, more closely related to several different tanager clades.

Large-footed finch

The large-footed finch (Pezopetes capitalis) is a passerine bird endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. Despite its name, it is not a true finch, but rather a member of the large family Passerellidae, which also includes American sparrows, juncos and towhees. It is the only member of the genus Pezopetes.

This is a common bird in the undergrowth of mountain forests, second growth, bamboo clumps, and scrubby pastures from 2150 m altitude to the scrubby páramo at 3350 m. It is readily seen in favoured sites such as Cerro de la Muerte.

The nest, built by the female, is a large loose cup of plant material placed less than 2 m up in bamboo or a dense shrub. The typical clutch is one or two brown-marked white or blue-white eggs, which are incubated by the female alone for 12–14 days before hatching.

The large-footed finch is a large, robust terrestrial species, 20 cm (7.9 in) long and weighing 56 g (2.0 oz). It has a slender bill, a modestly sized tail and very large and powerful feet and legs. This species is one of the heaviest in its diverse family. The adult has a slate grey head, becoming black on the throat, forehead and crown sides. The upper parts are dark olive and the wings and tail are black with olive fringes. The underparts are bright olive with a brown tint to the flanks and lower belly. Young birds have a streaked dark olive head, blackish scaling to the upperparts, and buff-olive underparts .

The large-footed finch has a thin seet call, and the male’s song, given from the ground or a low perch, consists of a mix or whistles, warbles, chatter and mimicry.

The large-footed finch feeds on insects, spiders, and seeds, extracted from the leaf litter with powerful double scratches that can send debris flying up to 30 cm. It will also pick berries from low bushes. It is normally seen in pairs.

Lark bunting

The lark bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) is a medium-sized American sparrow native to central and western North America. It is also the state bird of Colorado.

Lark sparrow

The lark sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) is a fairly large American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Chondestes.

Oaxaca sparrow

The Oaxaca sparrow (Aimophila notosticta) is a species of bird in the family Passerellidae that is endemic to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where it lives in dry forests and thornscrub. The population is in slow decline due to habitat loss.

Savannah sparrow

The Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) is a small American sparrow. It was the only member of the genus Passerculus and is typically the only widely accepted member. Comparison of mtDNA NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 and 3 sequences indicates that the Ipswich sparrow, formerly usually considered a valid species (as Passerculus princeps), is a well-marked subspecies of the Savannah sparrow, whereas the southwestern large-billed sparrow should be recognized as a distinct species (Passerculus rostratus).The common name comes from Savannah, Georgia, where one of the first specimens of this bird was collected.

Sierra Madre sparrow

The Sierra Madre sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi), also known as Bailey's sparrow, is an endangered, range-restricted, enigmatic American sparrow. It is endemic to Mexico and is threatened with extinction through habitat loss.


Sparrows are a family of small passerine birds. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a particular genus of the family, Passer. They are distinct from both the American sparrows, in the family Passerellidae, and from a few other birds sharing their name, such as the Java sparrow of the family Estrildidae. Many species nest on buildings and the house and Eurasian tree sparrows, in particular, inhabit cities in large numbers, so sparrows are among the most familiar of all wild birds. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. Some species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or rock doves will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities.

Striped sparrow

The striped sparrow (Oriturus superciliosus) is a species of bird in the Passerellidae family. It is monotypic within the genus Oriturus.

It is endemic to Mexico where its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and temperate grassland.

Tanager finch

The tanager finch (Oreothraupis arremonops) is a songbird species. In the recent past it was placed in the Emberizidae, and then classified as its common name implies, a kind of tanager (Thraupidae). Today, it has been placed in the family Passerellidae. It is placed in the monotypic genus Oreothraupis.

It is found in Colombia and Ecuador. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.


A towhee is any one of a number of species of birds in the genus Pipilo or Melozone within the family Passerellidae (which also includes American sparrows, and juncos).

Towhees typically have longer tails than other Passerellidae. Most species tend to avoid humans, so they are not well known, though the eastern towhee P. erythrophthalmus is bolder. This species, and some others, may be seen in urban parks and gardens.

There has been considerable debate over the taxonomy of the towhees in recent years. Two species complexes have been identified, the rufous-sided complex (involving Pipilo erythrophthalmus, P. maculatus, P. socorroensis, P. ocai and P. chlorurus), and the brown towhee complex (involving Melozone crissalis, M. fuscus, M. aberti and M. albicollis). The distinction of species within these is uncertain and opinions have differed over the years. Modern authorities distinguish all four species in the brown towhee complex, though M. fuscus and M. crissalis were formerly treated as a single species. Hybrids are frequent between some of the species, particularly between the Mexican races of P. maculatus ("olive-backed towhee", P. m. macronyx) and P. ocai.

Genus Melozone:

Abert's towhee ('Melozone aberti)

California towhee (Melozone crissalis),

Canyon towhee (Melozone fusca)

White-throated towhee (Melozone leucotis)Genus Pipilo:

Green-tailed towhee (Pipilo chlorurus),

Collared towhee (Pipilo ocai),

Eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus),

Spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus),

Bermuda towhee (Pipilo naufragus) — extinct

Vesper sparrow

The vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) is a medium-sized American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Pooecetes.

Adults have light brown upperparts and light underparts, both with darker streaking. They have a white eye ring and a long dark brown tail which shows white outer feathers in flight.

Their breeding habitat is open grassy areas across most of North America. The nest is an open cup on the ground under a clump of grass.

These birds migrate to the southern and central United States and Mexico.

These birds forage on the ground, mainly eating insects and seeds. Outside the nesting season they often feed in small flocks.

The male sings from a higher perch, such as a shrub or fencepost, which indicates his ownership of the nesting territory. The musical song begins with two pairs of repeated whistled notes and ends in a series of trills, somewhat similar to that of the song sparrow.

This bird's numbers are declining in the eastern parts of its range due to habitat loss.

White-throated sparrow

The white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a passerine bird of the American sparrow family Passerellidae.


Zonotrichia is a genus of five extant American sparrows of the family Passerellidae. Four of the species are North American, but the rufous-collared sparrow breeds in highlands from the extreme southeast of Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, and on Hispaniola.

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